AtkinsRéalis is part of a team that is planning to trial using drones to transport essential medicines, blood, organs and other medical supplies throughout Scotland.
Project Caelus is a consortium that includes AGS Airports, NHS Scotland and the University of Strathclyde. Their drone network is part of the UK government’s Future Flight Challenge.
The ground-based infrastructure to support the network is being designed by AtkinsRéalis which has unveiled its initial concept, which is lightweight aluminium structure with a lid that opens and closes like flower petals.
The landing pads could be positioned at GP surgeries, medical centres and hospitals.
Chris Crombie, lead designer on the project for AtkinsRéalis said: “Project Caelus has the potential to revolutionise how rural and remote communities receive vital supplies in future. The landing infrastructure is an important part of how the network can integrate with those communities.
“There are a number of considerations in terms of the practical function of this pad as it has to be able to fit into a van or on a trailer to transport it, so it needs to be lightweight. But at the same time it needs to be secure from the elements and strong enough for the job it’s designed for.
“This is the initial design stage but what the team has developed is an entirely unique concept which deliberately echoes the environment it operates in, with its flower-like design. We have essentially come up with a three-piece set of luggage to house the landing pad, the drone and medical supplies safely and securely.
“It has sustainability at its heart and, most importantly will provide NHS Scotland with the infrastructure it needs to operate the drone network and make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Drone landings will be overseen by operators on the ground and separate cases have been designed which enable them to store the medical supplies, and to take the drone off its pad for repair and maintenance when necessary.
Fiona Smith, spokesperson for Project CAELUS said: “These initial designs from AtkinsRéalis really bring to life the potential for this important drone network, and it’s exciting to see such an innovative design taking shape.
“The ground-based infrastructure is obviously a crucial part of the project in order to support the drones and will ensure we can make the delivery of essential medical supplies throughout Scotland including to remote communities.”
The next stage in the development of the pad will be the fabrication of a working prototype, which is due to be tested in real world conditions next year.
Project Caelus is part funded by Innovate UK’s Future Flight Challenge and has secured £7m of funding to develop the network. The consortium brings together 16 partners including the University of Strathclyde, NATS and NHS Scotland.